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Configuring Strike Cruisers
In order to execute orbital strikes, the player will need to construct Cruisers, as these are the only hull type compatible with orbital weapons. Each Major Faction has a different Cruiser hull:
As with other capital ships, Hyperspace Engines are recommended to power ship systems and provide Free Warp mobility, without having to dedicate ship space to Fuel Tanks. Beyond this, heavy Armour is recommended to resist fire from Orbit Defense Systems (these ignore Shields), along with at least some Medium weaponry for defence against other fleets, as orbital weapons cannot be used in fleet battles. A generous Ordnance capacity will also be needed for the orbital weapons themselves.
Orbital Weapon Loadouts
Considering weapon types, there are two basic classes of orbital weapon available. Both are Large weapons and are at least partly ordnance-based, so will not fire without onboard ammunition. Unlike all other weapons, orbital weapons have an Accuracy stat - not every shot fired as part of a strike will inflict damage. They also do not fire immediately, but only after a Launch Time countdown has completed.
- Orbital Bomber - this weapon will destroy one random structure on the target planet upon a hit, and has both a modest build cost and a low Launch Time of 30 minutes. However, it will not damage population and has a low Accuracy of only 10%. The Large Orbital Bomber is a purely-ordnance based weapon, unlocked with a single research as part of the torpedo launcher tech line. Players should be wary that each Orbital Bomber consumes 1000 Limbalt per shot; a T43 fitted with four of these weapons will consume 4000 ammo per strike from its onboard supply. Players are advised to make use of Extended Ordnance modules, both on cruisers and on resupply ships in order to sustain prolonged bombardments.
- Large Orbital Strike Cannon (LOSC-) - this is a second weapon with a tech line of five possible levels. Compared to the Large Orbital Bomber, the basic LOSC-30 is far easier to unlock, is more accurate with a 30% hit rate and consumes less ordnance. Its drawbacks are a long Launch Time of 60 minutes and an additional Ship Power consumption of 100MW per weapon, possibly necessitating additional onboard Generators. LOSC weapons deal damage only to the population(s) of a planet, killing 5,000 colonists upon a hit and leaving structures intact. The Tier 5 LOSC-90 has an Accuracy of 90% and a decreased Launch Time of 30 minutes, but is expensive to construct and extremely difficult to research, requiring the highest Difficulty Technology in the game to unlock.
Ordering Orbital Strikes
To carry out an orbital strike, the player must have a fleet containing at least one Cruiser, equipped with at least one orbital weapon and a sufficient supply of ammunition. The fleet flagship does not need to be equipped with orbital weaponry, allowing a Dreadnought to potentially lead a strike fleet. Once the target planet's orbit has been cleared of any defending fleets, move the bombarding fleet into the planet's orbit, then select the fleet and click the planet. This will bring up the drop-down menu seen in the panel above, including an Orbital strike option. Select this option will cause a brief cinematic to play and the Launch Time countdown to start.
While the Launch Time is counting down, the fleet must remain stationary in orbit of the target planet, and will therefore be vulnerable to fire from Orbital Defences and attack from enemy fleets. When the countdown is completed, all of the fleet's orbital weapons that are able to fire will do so, and the strike will be completed. The bombarding fleet is now free to move off or commence a new strike.
The results of the strike will be sent as a notification, listing the population killed (if any) and the number of structures destroyed (if any). The type of structure(s) destroyed is not listed. Some structures (Orbital Defences, Farms, Power Stations, Shipyards and terraforming stations are classed as Protected, and are less likely to be destroyed by a successful strike than unprotected structures.
Orbital strikes are typically carried out as a precursor to a ground invasion. With this in mind, some possible objectives of an orbital strike might be to destroy ground defences (either Military Bases or orbit defences), triggering a labour shortage by killing Population, collapsing the power grid by destroying Power Stations or damaging the planet's infrastructure by destroying other structures.
Improving Strike Effectiveness
Orbital strikes require the deployment of major fleet assets and supporting logistics, typically against well-defended targets. Players can take several actions to maximise the chances of success.
- Upgrade Weaponry - LOSCs can be upgraded to more effective versions, with higher Accuracy and shorter Launch Times. This is not an option for Orbital Bombers, which have no upgrades available.
- Saturate the Target - a large fleet of Cruisers, each equipped with multiple orbital weapons will naturally be more effective than a small fleet, or one with fewer weapons. If the player has sufficient resources, multiple bombardment fleets could be deployed, potentially in conjunction with allies. Separate fleets will also be needed to destroy guard fleets and to help absorb fire from Orbital Defences - given a choice of targets, they will split their fire, increasing the chances of bombardment ships surviving long enough to launch their strikes.
- Resupply Ships - in order to launch multiple strikes, bombarding fleets will need extra ammunition. This can be supplied by Freighters equipped with Ordnance Modules, allowing the bombarding ships to focus on armour protection.
- Immediate Follow-up - once all orbital strikes have been completed, the player should be ready to follow up on the weakened target with a ground assault. If this is not done, the defender will be free to rebuild damaged structures and replenish depleted populations.